tv Titans at the Table Bloomberg March 9, 2014 9:00am-9:31am EDT
>> power, leadership, impact. billionaires who are changing the world. on a special "titans at the table," we chat with microsoft chairman and global philanthropist bill gates. he is the world's richest person and with that great wealth comes great responsibility. he wants to destroy the myth that poverty and disease can't be eradicated. >> when i was born, almost all countries were poor. >> joining gates, a friend and fellow philanthropist, the bloomberg lp founder and former new york city mayor, michael bloomberg. >> there are fewer people starving, fewer people sleeping without a roof over their head. things are better. >> in the bill and melinda gates foundation's annual letter, gates predicts that by 2035
there will be almost no poor nations left in the world. coming up, we hear what these titans are doing to see that through. bill, i read through your letter and what i noticed in the tone was that you are very optimistic. you say look, we are better off than we were decades ago. where does this optimism come from? >> i think i am naturally optimistic but also i think the facts are on the side of the optimist. it is dangerous that people are focusing on the bad news and not seeing the progress we have made. it means they don't look at the best practices. it makes them less generous. we are raising poor countries up. most people live in middle-income countries now. there is more to be done on health and agriculture, but the track record success, if you don't see that you are not going to participate in what we need
to do. >> you say that there will be no poor nations by the time we reach 2035. >> almost none. landlocked countries in africa, north korea if they don't change the government, but it will be less than 10. when i was born, almost all countries were poor. now we are down to about one quarter of them. the next 20 years, if we focus on it, we can make it really exceptional. >> mike, you donated last year about $100 million to the bill gates foundation to eradicate polio from this world. do you share the same optimism as bill? >> i couldn't be more in agreement. one of the things people miss is that advocates seldom want to acknowledge success. they always want to have more to do, raise more money, be more important. bill is 100% right. there are fewer people starving, fewer people sleeping without a roof over their head. fewer people that are illiterate. life expectancy is generally longer.
by any rational measure, things are better. that doesn't mean every place or every person, and there will always be a bottom 20%, and we will always redefine what that means, but to say that all of the foreign aid and the moneys that the bill and melinda gates foundation or bloomberg or lots of other generous people have invested, hasn't done anything that is just not true at all. we have a guy, a doctor in africa, who is trying to get numbers and find out what people are dying from. if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. we don't know. a lot of times you look at birth certificates that will say act of god. that doesn't tell you where you want to put your money to save people's lives. bill and melinda working on polio, this is the chance of really eradicating this disease like smallpox or both of us working on malaria, or things like vitamin a deficiency that cause half a million people to go blind permanently every year,
there is an awful lot of new science, new ways of distributing and progress. one of the great things about bill and melinda is they have never shied away from taking on the impossible tasks. it turns out that complex problems don't have simple answers. the complex problems aren't unsolvable either. >> one of the myths about foreign aid or one of the perceptions is that so much aid goes to governments, let's say, in africa. and that they waste that aid or that it gives corrupt regimes a pass to not doing the things they need to do. what do you say to that? >> historically, during the cold war, there was a lot of money that was labeled aid that was really friendship money to make sure the bad guy was our bad guy versus the soviet's bad guy. nobody expected that human lives would improve dramatically there. now, we don't have that agenda. now we can go in and say -- what will this do for nutrition? what will this do for kids to
fully develop physically and mentally and help these countries be self-sufficient? so many have graduated from aid, mexico, brazil, that now we are focusing on the tough cases. with the right vaccines, the right seeds, and with the philanthropists coming in with their business-like mentality that mike and i have. i think every year, we will be smarter about how we do it. >> also when you have big problems and when you say you solved them, that doesn't mean 100% of them. we brought smoking down in a good part of this world dramatically. that will save an enormous number of lives. having said that, there is also places where the smoking industry has managed to get poor people who don't know that it is bad for their health to increase their rate of smoking. are you making progress? yes. should you be disappointed? no. should you walk away from it? not at all. the gates foundation and bloomberg work together. that is one of the biggest killers. smoking will kill one billion people this century.
we have made progress and you have to admit that and look at what works. if you are not willing to acknowledge what works, you will not know how to help others. >> coming up -- does someone trigger you to think about this area or is it something lifelong you have wanted -- >> oh, i think he listens to his wife. [laughter] ♪
>> mike bloomberg spent 12 years running the country's biggest city -- new york. it is no wonder he thinks local government is the bedrock of society. >> cities are where you distribute services. federal governments and state governments tend to move money around. cities are where you pick up the garbage, where you educate the kids, where you bring down crime, where you enact health
measures that you can actually see. what you can buy, how it is labeled, where you can use it, those kinds of things. if you take a look at most of the progress that has been made in climate change, for example, it has all been done at the city level. very little -- even in this country, when we are fighting guns, obesity, when we are trying to improving the school systems among those are not done at the federal and state level. those are done at the city level. >> bill, i have always wanted to know this from you. you have such a huge arsenal of resources. both of you do. how do you pick the causes that you get behind? >> globally, i think the greatest inequity is how poor children don't get to grow up and achieve their potential. either they die or they simply don't have enough food that their brain develops. we have decided that most of the money is going to go to that cause. fortunately there are things like new vaccines that will help those kids, avoid them getting
sick. we have seen the progress. 5% of kids now die before the age of five. the prediction is we can get that down to 1.6% and match where the united states was in 1980. because it is this injustice, because a lot of these things weren't being done at the level they should be, and once you pick an area, you develop expertise, you go out and see the people. that is going to be our lifeline work. >> does someone trigger you to think about this area or was it just something that lifelong you have always -- >> oh, i think he listens to his wife. [laughter] >> melinda has a lot of good ideas. maternal health, we have been doing a number of things under her guidance to trying to advance the causes of getting the kids so they can get born and survive the first couple of days and then the next five years.
there are lots of good ideas. and you just have to look -- you can't do everything, you have to decide what your core competencies are. like the bill and melinda foundation, and a lot of cases, they administer funds. in our case, we probably do more donating funds than having others administer it, but we have a big group working on public health issues as well. >> mike, when you were mayor, you had certain metrics by which you could measure the success of your own projects and initiatives. when you give money, how do you measure success? >> number one, not everything is going to work quickly. you have to have some patience. number two, if you do something in the scientific world and it turns out to be a failure, that in some sense is a success because you don't have to go down that path again. unfortunately, in the world i came from, you are labeled a failure and you have wasted you money -- >> and it is all over the press. >> yep. that is not the case the way science works. knowing what you're doing, measuring it, there are a lot of
people going around trying to apply metrics. in some cases you can and in some cases you have to do it on faith. i know down the road this is going to help and i am willing to make that bet. wait a little while and give it the old college try. if it doesn't work, don't be stubborn but don't walk away too quickly either. >> coming up, these titans take their money and experience on the road. >> that is why both of us are drawn -- more and more of our philanthropy will help those countries with those great needs. >> there are places where there are no roads so that if you need an operation, you just die. ♪
mayors conference. bill, you have been to africa numerous times in your foundation's work. what advice do you have for mike when he goes to africa? what do you think he should see there? >> my wife, melinda, and daughter are spending the week there out on a farm -- getting down to see these projects is exciting. mike has been super generous on malaria research, so i hope he will feel good going in and seeing that the death rate is down, seeing what more has to be done and talking to the people on the ground about which tools are hard to deliver, which are easy to deliver. africa is fantastic. the cities need a lot of help. the scientific research needs a lot of help. that is why both of us are drawn -- more and more of our philanthropy will help those countries with those great needs. >> one of the places melinda is has 50,000 people per doctor. in america, we have 500 people per doctor. there are places where there are no roads so if you need an operation, you just die. we have been training people to do appendectomies and cesareans,
which turn out to be relatively simple operations. without that, everybody who needs one of those is not going to survive. yet with a little help, working, you can't cure everything -- you are not going to do open heart surgery -- but you can do a few things. that can make an enormous difference and save countless lives. >> what do you hope to do there? >> the organization i am focusing on is a group of 63 cities that focus on climate change, sharing best practices and that sort of thing. they all have the same problems. they all have to educate and protect and improve the health of people. all through africa and latin america and asia and europe and america. we all have very similar problems. some of them are different magnitudes. some involve different diseases. but you don't have to go very far from right where we are sitting. just go to haiti and look at the terrible tragedy that has taken
place there. the world pledged all this money and yet they are still there with diseases that i thought were eradicated, and they are still living in tents and not having the ability to be in charge of their own destiny and feed their families. we have to get together and do things about it. >> many people watching this interview are big admirers of your work. i am curious to know who you admire. are there thought leaders that you look up to? >> well, we learn from each other. we are both early members of a group called the giving pledge where a lot of philanthropists sit and share mistakes. there are people like george soros who has done really innovative work. we get to meet the scientists working on this stuff. maybe the most amazing are the people out in the field who spend big parts of their life in africa taking these tools that we held back and making sure they get out there. >> also, you have to separate peoples' political interest from their willingness to help.
there are some -- soros is clearly a liberal, i think is a fair way to say it. the koch brothers are clearly conservative but they give enormous amounts of money to hospitals and tried to improve lives -- >> and you say give them credit for that. >> yes. you don't have to agree with everything everybody does. i don't know if i agree with either side, but i think they all deserve credit. there are also a lot of people who aren't billionaires, who aren't even millionaires who write small checks but give their time. they work and lobby their elected officials to take government money and try to improve the health of everybody. they deserve an enormous amount of credit as well. >> maybe that feeds in also to, bill, what you were talking about. some people feel that their lives have improved. how can they care about the problems that you are talking about? >> the question is -- are you willing to spend a little less than 1% on saving lives for a few thousand dollars per life?
the european governments tend to be about twice as generous on these aid issues as the united states is. they have set a good example. even the u.k. is making increases. it is a political decision. if this cynicism, if the lack of understanding that really good things are happening is out there, then the voters aren't going to be willing. recently in the budget compromise, polio got an extra $50 million a year. some progress has been made on something where we have very clear targets. in that case, by 2018, completely eradicating the disease. >> also, it is very self-serving as well. if you cure a disease elsewhere, then you are not likely to catch that disease. and we live in a world where diseases can spread very easily. we want stability around the world. that is self-serving because our safety depends on a world that doesn't start wars and gets along.
there is a compassionate part of this. we have an obligation to stop genocide. you come back to right where we started with this interview. things are better. we can make a difference. you are not going to cure everything overnight or even ever, but to sit back and say oh, it is hopeless -- that is not true. one of the things in bill's letter, he points out the better educated people don't overpopulate the world. quite the contrary. a lot of poor people have lots of kids because they don't think they will survive, and there is not going to be a breadwinner to take care of them and their dotage. if everybody is healthier, it just leads to a much more rational world and lets us deal with the real problems. >> coming up, the search for the new head of microsoft. >> has that ever hit your vision in the future of ever going back to microsoft full-time? [laughter] ♪
>> before he was a philanthropist, bill gates founded one of the most successful companies ever, microsoft, where he remains chairman. how involved are you on a day-to-day basis with microsoft? >> well, i am on the board, and the board is doing some important work right now. the foundation is the biggest part of my time, but then i put part-time work in to help as a board member. >> are you involved at all -- or how involved are you with the search for the new chief executive? >> the board is working on that. there is nothing new to say. >> we had the fortune of having the mayor come back to this company, and we are happy to have him back at bloomberg. bill, has that ever hit your vision in the future of ever going back to microsoft full-time?
>> well, my full-time work will be the foundation for the rest of my life. my wife, melinda, and i are enjoying that. i get to do it in depth. i am not going to change that. i will help out part-time. >> mike, tell me how you think. in the 12 years you have been in public office, technology, the industry itself has changed dramatically. new pioneers that follow in the footsteps of bill gates, give me your take on the state of technology. >> technology is an enabler. technology is a tool. i think the basics really haven't changed. education, business, philanthropy -- it is still about people looking each other in the eye and listening to each other, working collaboratively and collectively. you have to be very careful and not think that technology is going to do everything for you. ethics matter, competency, the education of our kids is the most important thing. there is enormous changes in the job prospects for people at every level. some are going to lead us down a
path with some very severe problems. but nevertheless, the first and most important thing is every kid getting a good education. in some parts of the world, they understand that. in some parts of the world, they don't. sadly in america, we don't seem to. we keep falling in these rankings. we used to be in the top 10, now we are lucky to be in the top 30. that does not bode well for our future. we have to pull together, get away from the partisan stuff and start devoting the resources we need if we are going to have a future. >> bill, you are passionate as well about training our young people. particularly in computer science, that there is not enough training there. >> i think education is top. mike and i think it is incredibly important. we have been willing to create some controversy saying let's help teachers be better. let's try out new approaches. the status quo is pretty unsatisfactory. technology is going to help, particularly for that motivated
learner, and how do you create the motivation broadly? that is mostly a human problem and helping the teacher do it as best as possible. >> just on a following note, bill, tell me what you think about the state of the technology industry now and how the new crop of leaders, how you see them. >> the rate of innovation is faster than ever. things like understanding speech and vision, taking large amounts of data and understanding that, big high-resolution screens that will be on your walls in the office, at home, so we are really in a fantastic period where finding information and understanding information is going to get a lot better. that will lead to productivity. we can simulate things so that new product design and innovation can go faster. we see it in biology -- even understanding complex systems and what drugs should be tried out. i am a great believer that whether it is helping the
poorest or just helping the global economy, technology can solve a lot of problems. >> you can just go back and look at what people predicted a few years ago and they were so far wrong. almost everything they predicted has been done. yet we are -- in the next two or three years, we will improve technology more than was done from the beginning of inventing electricity until today. >> exponential. >> exponential and the disruption. there is no industry that is not going to have to adjust and change. some will do it successfully. some won't. some people are going to have better jobs, some people are going to have to find ways to make sure they are included. we shouldn't walk away from it, but it is going to be a serious problem, and it is not just an american problem, it is a problem around the world. particularly in the middle where an awful lot of automation is taking place, that gives you cheaper, better products but it also re-employs fewer people. we have to find a way to get everybody involved. >> mike bloomberg, thank you so
capital, jeffrey goldberg on his interview with barack obama and the latest on ukraine. julianna goldman talks obama's budget. and paul ryan's plan. >> we start the program with governor rick perry of texas. thank you for joining us. you have a commode to us reception when you spoke your this morning. you have said that you're going to hold off on whether you will run again for president until the end of 2014.